If you suffer feelings of unease, fear and worry, adding cashews to your diet might be helpful. That’s because these tree nuts are filled with nutrients that can help improve mental health including tryptophan, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, don’t attempt to treat it on your own, however. Consult a doctor to develop a treatment plan, including any dietary changes.
The tryptophan in cashews can boost your brain’s production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, which promotes a stable mood and healthy sleep, according to “GPRX for Depression and Anxiety” by Jordan Rubin and Joseph Brasco. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, or protein building block, meaning you must consume it because your body cannot make it. A September 2007 “Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology” study concluded that protein-source tryptophan along with carbohydrates significantly improves symptoms in people who suffer social anxiety disorder. An ounce of cashews has about 8.6 g of carbohydrates and 5.2 g of protein.
Cashews are an excellent source of magnesium, notes the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, containing more than other nuts such as almonds. In fact, you get 83 mg of magnesium per ounce of cashews, compared to 73 mg of magnesium per ounce of almonds. A higher magnesium intake is associated with better mental health, according to a January 2009 “The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry” study. The evidence is stronger when it comes to lower incidence of depression versus anxiety, however, according to lead study author F.N. Jacka. The study examined data from 5,708 people who participated in Norway’s Hordaland Health Study.
The omega-3 fatty acids in cashews also may give your mental health a boost, according to MedlinePlus. A November 2009 “Prostglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids” scientific analysis notes that omega-3 fatty acids have a theoretical benefit if you suffer anxiety. The theory is based on the fact that omega-3 fatty acids provide benefits if you suffer major depressive disorders and that many conventional medications are effective for anxiety as well as depression, notes analysis author B.M. Ross. Small studies point to a benefit, but large-scale studies are needed before firm conclusions can be drawn, Ross notes.
You may need more than a handful of cashews to combat your anxiety. Changing your diet is just one strategy that may help, according to PubMed Health. In general, consuming a well-balanced diet, exercising, getting proper sleep and limiting caffeine, alcohol and drug use can help relieve stress and anxiety. Practices such as yoga and tai chi also may help. Consult a health-care professional to develop a treatment plan, including any dietary and lifestyle changes.
- “GPRX for Depression and Anxiety”; Jordan Rubin and Joseph Brasco; 2007
- PubMed Health; Stress and Anxiety; June 2011
- “Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology”; Protein-Source Tryptophan as an Efficacious Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder: A Pilot Study; C. Hudson, et al; Setpember 2007
- MedlinePlus; Tryptophan; February 2010
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide; They’re Good for Us, but Which Nut Is the Best?; October 2004
- “The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry”; Association between magnesium intake and depression and anxiety in community-dwelling adults: the Hordaland Health Study; F.N. Jacka et al; January 2009